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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Improbable Pitchers PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 17 May 2015 00:00

Since I don't like to leave things incomplete, after focusing on hitting last week, I figured that I'd devote this week to pitchers, more specifically the five standard rotisserie pitching categories, and take a look at some of the surprising names that rank among the leaders. All stats are as of Saturday morning.

WINS

Bartolo Colon: 6 (1st in MLB) - What else is there to say about this guy? We're finally starting to see some regression, as Colon is coming off two straight mediocre outings. But being that he went undrafted in the vast majority of mixed leagues, his owners have little to complain about. Colon's current ERA of 3.86 is more in line with what we should expect by season's end, but the ageless righty continues to pound the strike zone (one walk through 51 1/3 innings). While he does give up his fair share of home runs, the fact that he doesn't hurt himself with free passes results in a lot of those home runs being of the solo variety. The annoying part about owning Colon is that the chances of getting anything of significance for him in a trade are slim since there are still so many skeptics out there. His owners are probably better off hanging onto him in hopes that he can at the very least serve as a quality back end of the rotation option from here on out.

ERA

Nick Martinez: 1.88 (7th in MLB among qualifiers) - Talk about surprising, this is the same Nick Martinez who pitched to a 4.55 ERA and 1.46 WHIP while posting an underwhelming 4.9 K/9 in his 2014 rookie campaign. And despite the minuscule ERA, he's whiffing less than four batters per nine innings this season. The good news is that his minor league K/9 of 8.1 suggests that there's room for improvement in the strikeout department. Plus, he's still just 24 years of age. That said, Nick's 3.62 FIP hints that an ERA correction is in store. You don't want to have him in your starting lineup when that happens. Much like Colon, Martinez's trade value is limited, so you might as well keep him on your roster for now, but tread carefully.

WHIP

Shelby Miller: 0.93 (7th in MLB among qualifiers) - Heading into drafts this spring, I targeted Miller as an undervalued arm who could easily improve upon last year's stat line (10-9, 3.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), which was still decent but a far cry from his dominant rookie season. So I'm not at all surprised that he's exceeding expectations. But I didn't quite expect a 0.93 WHIP through seven starts, especially considering his 3.6 BB/9 from a year ago. Yeah, the WHIP, in addition to the 1.60 ERA, is bound to rise, but Miller remains a guy who I'd rather have on my roster than on someone else's. Don't forget that he registered a 2.92 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in the second half last season.

STRIKEOUTS

Clay Buchholz: 54 (Tied for 9th in MLB) - I'll admit it. I've never been a fan of Buchholz and his inconsistent ways. He's simply too prone to those disaster outings that can ruin your ratios, and he's never been a high strikeout pitcher, that is until this year. What's more believable? The 6.9 K/9 that Clay posted up until this season or the 10.6 K/9 that he boasts through eight starts in 2015? If you can somehow convince one of your league mates that the drastically increased strikeout rate is real and fill a legitimate need by trading Buchholz, do it.

SAVES

Jeurys Familia/Andrew Miller: 13 (Tied for 1st in MLB) - Another win for the "don't pay for saves" contingent, though I still refuse to join them. Miller was drafted in most mixed leagues this year, albeit for a much cheaper price than Dellin Betances, who was considered the frontrunner for the Yankees closer job. As it turns out, both Miller and Betances have been nearly unhittable so far, both sporting a 0.00 ERA roughly one-quarter into the season. But when it comes to saves, Miller leads Betances by the score of 13-1. Betances owners who didn't handcuff him by also drafting Miller could probably use some counseling by now. The case of Familia, who has gone 13-for-13 in save chances to go along with a 1.56 ERA and 0.69 WHIP through 18 appearances this season, is a different story altogether. I mean, how could a mixed league owner have predicted that Jenrry Mejia would get slapped with an 80-game PED suspension, thus paving the way for Familia to earn high-end closer status? Maybe in some extremely deep mixed league formats, Familia was drafted as a late-round flier, but that's about it. There's plenty of baseball ahead of us in 2015, but the Mets' ninth inning man certainly belongs in the "best waiver wire pickup of the season" discussion. Congrats to those of you who, thanks to some combination of foresight and luck, managed to add Familia to your fantasy squad.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 May 2015 08:06
 
Fluke Fishing PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 10 May 2015 00:00

At what point can a hot start be considered a great season, a season free from the inevitable regression rules that fantasy pundits always talk about? 30 games? 60 games? 100 games? I did take a statistics class in high school, and another in college, yet I don't have a definitive answer to this question. Maybe there was a time when I could have figured it out and I just forgot how to do it. Or maybe there simply isn't a definitive answer. And, that's too bad, because knowing the answer to this question would surely help me as a fantasy baseball owner, as I would have a much clearer idea as to whether I should "sell high" on a certain player or hold onto him and enjoy the ride.

Ultimately, the best we can do is use the information available at the time to make the best possible educated guess. My unscientific approach has generally been to wait until Memorial Day before I take certain statistics too seriously. Well, we're getting pretty close to Memorial Day and there are still several wacky (or maybe not so wacky?) player stats to consider. Focusing on the standard five hitting categories, let's take a look at some of the unlikely names that appear on the various leaderboards heading into Saturday's games. Note that I'm using hits in place of batting average since I'm certainly not taking batting average seriously at this point.

HITS

Mike Moustakas: 37 (Tied for 8th in MLB) - Moustakas has been in the post-hype sleeper conversation for several years now, but it hasn't been until this year that the former top prospect has performed at a consistently high level over an extended stretch of games. Moose's .392 OBP over his first 28 games this season is crazy stuff being that his career OBP still stands at a lowly .296 and his BABIP this year is .343. But being that he has only three home runs so far, I wouldn't be surprised if his home run rate increases going forward. He's also striking out at a career-low rate, which is an encouraging sign that the batting average correction might not be quite as drastic as many expect. Moustakas owners should be open to dealing him if an especially attractive trade offer comes along but the chances of that happening are minimal since there are plenty of doubters still out there. Don't be afraid to hold onto him.

RUNS

Wil Myers: 26 (1st in MLB) - Sticking with the post-hype sleeper theme, Myers has played a huge role in transforming the Padres from the lowest-scoring team in the NL a year ago to the highest-scoring team in the Senior Circuit this season. Batting leadoff in a lineup that includes Matt Kemp and Justin Upton will continue to provide Myers with plenty of run-scoring opportunities, and keep in mind that Myers tallied 50 runs across 88 games in his 2013 Rookie of the Year campaign, so perhaps we should not be all that surprised by this.

HOME RUNS

Bryce Harper: 10 (Tied for 2nd in MLB) - The longball has never been Harper's specialty, but with five homers over his last two games entering Saturday, Bryce is within three homers of his total from last season. Barring a prolonged stint on the DL, Harper will shatter his previous single-season home run high of 22. The elite power potential has always been there with Harper. Now, in his age-22 season, we're finally seeing it. Harper is also tied for 4th in the Majors in both RBI (25) and runs (23). Would you really be surprised by a .290-30-100-100 end of season line?

RBI

Stephen Vogt: 25 (Tied for 4th in MLB) - Vogt's fantasy appeal heading into this season mostly centered around his catcher eligibility. Perhaps he could be a serviceable No. 2 backstop in mixed leagues. Forget serviceable No. 2 backstop. How about reliable No. 1 backstop? Through 29 games, Vogt is batting .322 with seven home runs to go along with the 25 RBI. But let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. His HR/FB is currently at an unsustainable 17.1 percent, and he's batting .481 with runners in scoring position. Expect high-end No. 2 catcher production from here on out and you won't be disappointed.

STOLEN BASES

Anthony Rizzo: 7 (Tied for 12th in MLB) - So we're roughly one-fifth through the season and Rizzo has more steals than home runs. Huh? All it took was 24 games for Rizzo to set a new personal single-season high in the swipes category. Before you dismiss this as a complete anomaly, realize that stolen bases, or more specifically stolen base attempts, can be heavily influenced by organizational philosophy. With the aggressive Joe Maddon at the helm, it's not inconceivable to think that Rizzo could have one of those Paul Goldschmidt-type seasons where he steals 15-plus bags to go along with the 30-plus home runs.

And here I was thinking that I might have temporarily lost my mind when I decided to shell out 40 bucks for Rizzo in Mixed Auction Tout Wars.

And here I was thinking that my team was well short in speed.

But it still might be. Rizzo won't be stealing 35.

At least that's what my unscientific calculations tell me.

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 May 2015 23:25
 
Midnight Obsession PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 03 May 2015 00:00

Tuesday, April 28 - 11:10 PM

Axford or Cecil? Cecil or Axford? Both are sitting on the waiver wire in Mixed Auction Tout Wars, and I'm sitting with two closers, so securing a third source of saves could translate to five or six points in the standings by year's end. The only problem is that both of these guys are risky, and I have until Sunday at midnight ET to decide which one is worth the higher bid.

Earlier this evening, just hours after Rockies closer Adam Ottavino landed on the DL due to elbow inflammation, John Axford notched his third save in as many chances and first save as Colorado's unquestioned ninth inning man. But as is often the case with Axford, the save was far from drama-free, as he allowed two hits before getting Mark Trumbo to ground out and strand runners on first and third. That said, through five appearances this season, Axford has yet to allow a run while striking out six and issuing a manageable two free passes. He might be tough to watch, but he does have plenty of closing experience, and there's a sense that Ottavino's injury could be more serious than originally thought.

Like Axford, Brett Cecil has battled control issues in recent years, most notably last year (4.6 BB/9), but he is coming off two straight seasons in which he posted a sub-3.00 ERA while racking up a steady dose of strikeouts. Unlike Axford, Cecil's closing experience is limited (seven career saves including the one he picked up tonight), but in his favor is the fact that his ninth inning opportunity is the result of poor performance by his team's former closer as opposed to an injury.

Axford or Cecil? Cecil or Axford? This is going to drive me crazy over the next 120-plus hours.

Wednesday, April 29 - 10:25 AM

In 15 years of playing fantasy baseball, I can't recall having a better offensive day than the one I had today in Tout. How about 20-for-54 with five homers, 13 RBI and 17 runs scored? This included a 5-for-6, HR, RBI, 4 R game by Denard Span in addition to one homer and three RBI apiece from Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick. It is important to stay grounded though and not get too caught up in my current first place standing. This isn't DFS. This isn't a Ron Shandler Monthly League. There's plenty of work to be done.

Thursday, April 30 - 10:43 PM

Part of that work includes trying to address my lack of speed. Yes, I am in the middle of the pack in steals so far, but it's all smoke and mirrors. Anthony Rizzo's six steals amount to roughly one-third of my team's total swipes. Rizzo might not even steal six more bases the rest of the season. And then there's Denard Span, who exited tonight's game early due to soreness in his abdomen, this after opening the season on the DL with an abdomen injury. Not good, and not at all good for my speed. Trade talks have gone nowhere up to this point, and Cameron Maybin, my $15 FAAB investment, has been a total bust. What a waste.

Thursday, April 30 - 11:14 PM

Drafting Mike Leake in the reserve rounds, on the other hand, was no waste. Leake is one of those pitchers who fits under the "boring but underrated" category, but the 2015 version of Mike Leake hasn't been boring at all. Tonight's eight shutout inning gem lowered his season ERA to 3.03, and through five starts, his WHIP stands at a microscopic 0.90. These are ridiculous numbers, and a stat correction is inevitable (hopefully, I'll have him benched for those starts), but it's important to keep in mind that Leake is still only 27 years of age, so maybe he can perform at the level of a mid-rotation starter in a deep mixed league. No, the stuff isn't overpowering, but this is a guy who simply knows how to pitch.

Saturday, May 2 - 3:36 PM

Axford or Cecil? Cecil or Axford?

This is going to drive me crazy over the next 32-plus hours.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 03 May 2015 00:42
 
Statistic Stressing PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 26 April 2015 00:00

Wednesday, April 22 - 10:36 PM

As I've mentioned a few times, I made a conscious effort in drafts this spring to break out of my usual risk-adverse mode and incorporate the "better to draft a guy a year too early than a year too late" philosophy into my strategy. And perhaps no other player exemplifies this more than Kolten Wong, who I own in multiple leagues this year, Mixed Auction Tout Wars being one of them. Maybe I was too quick to buy into the Dustin Pedroia comparisons and too confident that Wong would play well enough to earn a spot near the top of the Cardinals lineup, which would enhance his run-scoring and stolen base potential. Through the first two-plus weeks of the season, most of his at-bats have come from the #8 spot, and heading into yesterday's game, the 24-year-old second sacker sported a mediocre .308 OBP to go along with six runs scored and one stolen base. But today's 3-for-4 performance marked his second straight three-hit game. His OBP is now up to .396. See how quickly that happened? And he even stole a base yesterday. To be honest, I'm still concerned about the whole lineup order thing, but at least for now, I can rest easy and trust my instincts that this is a player well worth owning in 2015, even if the true breakout season doesn't come until 2016. Or 2017.

Wednesday, April 22 - 11:02 PM

I drafted Elvis Andrus for $15 in Tout, and I was neither overly excited nor overly depressed about the purchase. I needed Andrus for his speed at a thin position, and I was convinced that he would improve upon last year's underwhelming stat line. No, I wasn't counting on a repeat of the 42 steals and 91 runs he posted just two seasons ago, but I figured that Elvis could give me around 80 runs and 30-plus swipes. All Elvis has given me so far is grief, and after back-to-back multi-hit games, tonight's 0-for-4 output, which dropped his season batting average to .188, serves as a reminder that I probably could have put those 15 bucks to better use. With only two steals on the year, the Rangers shortstop is barely on pace to reach the 20-stolen base plateau. There's no way he continues to struggle like this, if for no other reason than the law of averages, right? Still, at 26 years of age, Andrus looks like he's already in the decline phase of his career.

Thursday, April 23 - 5:15 PM

At 41 years of age, Bartolo Colon should be well into the decline phase of his career. In fact, his career should be over. Instead, after today's triumph over the Braves that improved his record to 4-0, Colon leads the Majors in victories while boasting a 2.77 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 23 whiffs in 26 innings. I did discuss Colon last week, so I don't want to go on and on about my final reserve round selection in Tout this year. But I do enjoy watching this guy pitch, and even better, take his hacks at the plate! Logic says that Bartolo is due for a disaster outing or two, but since when did logic apply to Bartolo Colon?

Friday, April 24 - 10:12 PM

I wanted him in as many leagues as possible, and as it turned out, I was able to draft him in three of my five mixed leagues. Up until tonight, he was batting .162 with one homer and two RBI through his first 12 games, but it sure looks like Brandon Moss has finally figured things out. How about 3-for-5 with two homers, a double and seven RBI? My rationale in pursuing Moss was that a player who racked up 76 homers over a three-year span while playing half of his games in a pitcher-friendly park would welcome a move out of Oakland and surpass the 30-home run mark. Best of all, Brandon would not cost nearly as much as most 30-home run bats. He's a streaky hitter, so I need to be prepared for this kind of uneven production. In the end, however, the numbers should be there.

Even if my patience is severely tested.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 April 2015 09:28
 
Madman on the Run PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 19 April 2015 00:00

Tuesday, April 14 - 7:05 PM

Maybe the 15 FAAB bucks I shelled out for Cameron Maybin's services in Mixed Auction Tout Wars will turn out to be a complete waste after all. For the second time in the last three games, he's not even in the lineup, with the Braves instead opting to start Eric Young Jr. in centerfield. The reality is that at this point, Maybin doesn't even deserve to be an everyday player. He's recorded just two hits over his first 15 at-bats this season. I had hoped that he would help to fill my speed void, but it's awfully hard to steal bases when you can't get on base. All I can do right now is count down the days until Denard Span returns.

Wednesday, April 15 - 10:43 PM

That's more like it! I know the season is young, but Oswaldo Arcia has so far been a total bust. Through his first six games of 2015, he was batting .176 with zero homers, zero RBI and zero runs scored. So it was nice to see him launch a two-run homer tonight, kind of a reassuring sign that I wasn't completely crazy to purchase him for $7 at the auction table last month. Actually, drafting a player like Arcia was a bit out of character for me, as I followed the "it's better to draft a player a year too early than a year too late" philosophy, prioritizing potential over track record. But then again, this is a guy who smacked 20 homers in only 103 games last year, so maintaining that pace over a full season would net a 30-plus home run campaign. Still, there was risk with Arcia, mainly due to his low OBP and struggles against left-handed pitching. By no means have I given up on him, but I have a feeling that his streakiness is going to frustrate me to no end. Hopefully, this home run will be followed by a hot stretch that will restore his trade stock to a level where I would at least have the option to deal him for some speed.

Thursday, April 16 - 10:32 PM

There were signs during the latter stages of last season that Chris Archer was ready to break out, the most notable one being a walk rate that dropped from 3.6 BB/9 prior to the All-Star break to 3.0 BB/9 following the Midsummer Classic. Not to say that his overall 2014 stat line (3.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 173 K in 194 2/3 IP) was unimpressive, but it sure looked like there was even more room to grow. If tonight's performance versus a formidable Blue Jays lineup (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 11 K) is any indication, Archer, who has now posted back-to-back 7 IP, 0 ER performances, might even exceed my own optimistic expectations. Perhaps I can now afford to trade one of my other starting pitchers for some speed?

Friday, April 17 - 10:06 PM

For some reason, I always seem to own Bartolo Colon in at least one league every year. And I think I know why. It's because I always make a special effort to identify and then draft undervalued starting pitchers, and over the past few seasons, Colon continues to be undervalued. The hesitancy to draft him is understandable. He's old, and the general consensus is that he could break down at any moment. But even at 41 years of age, he hasn't broken down yet, and Bartolo deserves a ton of credit for transforming himself from a young power pitcher to a veteran hurler who relies on pinpoint control to get hitters out. Well, after limiting the Marlins to one run over seven innings tonight, Colon has now earned a win in each of his first three starts this season while registering a 2.25 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. My sixth and final Tout Wars reserve round selection, he's already returned a profit. If Colon can manage to record his third consecutive season of at least 30 starts, now that would be something.

It might even allow me to trade one of my other starting pitchers for some speed.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 April 2015 01:44
 
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